Trapping is still a popular past time in the northern half of the
country. Mostly trappers are looking for beavers, raccoons and
But every year, a small number of household pets are caught as well.
As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, one pet
is fighting to change that:
Trapping is still a popular pastime in the northern half of the country. Mostly, trappers are
looking for beavers, raccoons, and muskrats. But every year, a small number fo household pets are
caught as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, one pet owner is
fighting to change that.
Valentine was Meg Massaro’s best friend. She was a black and brown boxer. And, at one time, a
mangy stray. Massaro found her on the side of the road and nursed her back to health. The two
became inseperable. Then, on a cold January morning, they went for a run on a local bike path.
“So I let her off the leash. She bounded happily in front of me for about thirty seconds. The next
thing I know I heard her screaming and I jumped in after her and she was sailing through the air
with a bucket over her head. I took the bucket off her head and there was a trap and I said to my
husband, ‘What is it?’ She kept looking at me, pleadingly her eyes were just getting bigger and
bigger. She couldn’t breathe. And animal control with the help of police were finally able to get
it off. It was about an hour and a half that she was in the trap. Of course, by that time, she was
long gone. It was gruesome, very grisly.”
The trap was about fifty feet from this bike path just outside of Albany, New York. Massaro
remembers thinking this had to be illegal. It’s an area with playgrounds and picnic benches. So,
she called New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and found out the trap was legally
“They were really like, ‘Well what do you want us to do, lady?’ And I said, ‘I want you to go out
and see if there are any more traps and if there are, I want you to remove them.’ And the guy
said, ‘We wouldn’t be able to do that.’ So I just said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and hung up the and
I thought, ‘This is war.'”
Massaro started calling newspapers. She circulated a petition with thousands of names. And she
began lobbying – full time – to get traps out of residential areas.
“I can’t imagine that anyone wants traps near their home, near where their kids play, near where
their dogs are walking; it doesn’t make any sense to allow that.”
Albany County legislator Paulette Barletti talked to Massaro over the phone after the incident.
But she wasn’t sure it was an issue she wanted to adopt. Then, she saw photographs the police took
after Valentine’s death.
“I was actually horrified. And the first thing that came to my mind was, good grief, this could be
Barletti introduced legislation to ban trapping on state or private land. That’s because New York,
like most states, regulates trapping on the state level. Traps can be set on most state land and
on private land with permission of the landowner.
Gordon Batcheller runs New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s trapping program. He
says trappers often serve as their eyes and ears in the field.
“Trapping is actually very hard, it’s hard work and it takes a lot of skills. Studies have shown
that trappers, of all outdoor users, have the highest level of all wildlife biology. They’re
extremely knowledgeable about animals. They can tell us what’s going on out there and we really
value what they tell us because they’re knowledgeable and they see things.”
Batcheller says the majority of trappers are extremely careful about where they set their traps.
And there aren’t too many pets being caught. but Batcheller says it’s clear that in those cases,
the trapper made a mistake.
“In the incidents that we’ve evaluated, the traps simply should not have been set where they were
set. Even though it was legal, poor judgement was used in those instances and experienced trappers
that look at these cases, they shake their heads and say why did they do that.”
Now, thanks in part to Meg Massaro’s campaign, Batcheller is trying to find a compromise. He’s
come up with new recommendations. They’d require trappers to move traps off the ground and onto
stands and trees where dogs can’t reach them. And, he’s proposing tougher restrictions near roads
and bike paths. Batcheller hopes the recommendations will be in place by next fall. But Meg
Massaro says it’s not enough. She’s lobbying for local control so counties can make their own
decisions about trapping. And she wants traps banned from recreational areas. But mostly, she
wants to make sure that this never happens to someone’s dog again.
“When I drover her home that first time, tears were running down my cheks that day because I
couldn’t believe how abused this dog had been. And i promised, I said it out loud to her, no one
will ever hurt you again. And I lied. I didn’t mean to, but i lied and i can’t live with that. I
have to do something to compensate for that. She deserved better, and other people and their pets
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly in Albany, New York.